Interesting in theory, not-so interesting in execution. Strategy Informer lays down the law on EA's APB
The thing about APB, is that it's easier to interact with it if you don't think of it as an MMO. At least, not in the traditional sense. Whether you consider it more a 'persistent on-line' shooter, an online design game with a bit of pew-pew thrown in, or a big digital bout of cops and robbers - one thing that is clear is that it tries to touch new ground. Kudos for Realtime Worlds for trying, but whether they succeeded is another thing entirely.
Yeah, I'm about to get mah spray on
According to Realtime Worlds themselves, All Points Bulletin is a bit of a culmination of the lessons learned from both Grand Theft Auto and Crackdown... which you can sort of see in the design of APB, but not really. All Points Bulletin presents you with San Paro, a fictional city that has been brought to its knees by gang violence. In order to combat this, the Mayor has introduced an act effectively legalizing vigilantism, and now the metropolis is one big battleground in a war between the Criminals and the Enforcers.
As the player, you must decide which of these two factions you will join before throwing yourselves into the fray. The premise isn't that bad, in theory. Realtime Worlds have had plenty of experience with the themes underlining this title in their previous works, so expectations, whilst not amazingly high, were never-the-less optimistic. Sadly, this is yet one more game that's failed to live up to expectations.
There's really only two things to do when you get into San Paro, first of which is to do missions. Each faction has a number of sub-factions associated with it, and each of these sub-factions have 'contacts' of varying 'levels'. It's pretty straight forward, choose a faction, choose a sub-faction, and then choose one of the starting contacts to 'pledge' too, and they will give you missions and tasks to do around the city. You can remain unpledged and just get missions from anyone, but the rewards aren't as good. As you build up 'standing' with a contact, and as a result the faction, you earn more money, better equipment becomes available for purchase, and you get 'referred' to other contacts who offer better rewards still - which is about as closest to a 'real' MMO this game gets.
The missions themselves are divided between PvE and PvP. The PvE missions are the most simple, the most mundane, and give the least rewards. There's no actual fighting in the PvE missions, just tasks that you have to perform - breaking in, raiding, dropping off, investigating... good for exploring the city, testing out the various tasks... even a 'warm up', but they're nothing exciting.
We haven't talked much about the driving so far. It's as good as the shooting, let's put it that way
The PvP element is where most of the 'fun' that this game is supposed to have is derived. PvP missions are, by and large, very similar to the PvE missions, except that members of the opposing faction can be dispatched against you to try and prevent you from accomplishing your goals. This is definitely one of the plus points of the game. Whether you're by yourself or in a team, it can be very engaging to fight against your enemies whilst trying to complete objectives, or blasting through resistance to stop your enemy completing theirs. Drive through San Paro you can see dozens of this mini fire fights going on at any one time, so it certainly creates the atmosphere of a city under siege.
Unfortunately, this part is by no means perfect. Matchmaking appears to be an issue, and the combat mechanics themselves are pretty sparse. It's unclear whether matchmaking is just faulty, or whether RTW's new approach is to blame here - the developers have prided themselves on this game being completely skill based, as opposed to related to how much time one can sink in. A noble effort, to be sure, but the amount of matches where we've been horribly mismatched, whether by skill or simply by them having better equipment than us, can really suck the fun out of the game.
Remember, I mentioned two things: The second is arguably the more minor out of the two, but the best bit by far: Customization. You can customize your character at the start, but as you play through missions, you can unlock further options. Go in to San Paro's Social District (the only non-combat area, and the only area that's truly free to play), and you can go back in and customize yourself even further. Custom designed tattoo's, piercings, Dragonball-Z hair styles... you name it, you can most likely do it, and that doesn't just extend to your avatar. Your clothing, your music... even your car can be customized and tailored to your whim - provided you have the money and the unlocks etc...
If APB is anything, it's a blank canvas. The creativity the game can inspire is truly one of the best features of the game. Unfortunately, it puts everything else in such a negative context. Combat and missions are simply a means to an end, and they feel like it too. Ultimately, it's a harsh blow to any game's credibility where the most in depth feature of a game is the character customization at the very beginning.
Arresting criminals is an action unique to the Enforcers. Criminals have unique actions too
Still, with overhauls of several game mechanics, including shooting, already in the works, you can't help wonder what Realtime World's plan was here. Did they hope people wouldn't notice its shortcomings? Where they conducting some kind of experiment? Did they always plan to do this overhaul? Whilst it's great they seem to have taken on board all of the feedback and come up with plans to address the issues, one can't help but be a tad suspicious of how readily they took to the criticism.
APB: RELOADED VERDICT
Still, with overhauls of several game mechanics, including shooting, already in the works, you can’t help wonder what Realtime World’s plan was here. Did they hope people wouldn’t notice its shortcomings? Where they conducting some kind of experiment? Did they always plan to do this overhaul? Whilst it’s great they seem to have taken on board all of the feedback and come up with plans to address the issues, one can’t help but be a tad suspicious of how readily they took to the criticism.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Working together with your mates makes any game, including this one, ten times more fun.